Sydney shules show solidarity

Tuvia Kastel reciting tehilim at Chabad North Shore. Photo: Noel Kessel

AS Pittsburgh faces its darkest days following the worst antisemitic attack in American history, Jewish communities around Australia are paying heartfelt tributes to the victims, their loved ones and the broader Pittsburgh community.

On Monday evening, around 60 people turned out in a show of support at Chabad North Shore, where 11 memorial candles were lit for the 11 lives lost.

Rabbi Nochum Schapiro commented, “Wherever there is darkness we have to add light. When you add light that has a positive effect on a macro-level,” while emphasising the blatant and unadulterated antisemitic nature of the massacre.

“I think that focusing on mental health, gun control or politics takes away from where the focus should be,” said Rabbi Schapiro. “What is needed is to express to friends and neighbours that this is real so that they can eradicate [antisemitism] from their midst.”

Noting how the gunman didn’t discriminate between groups of Jews, Rabbi Shapiro commented, “He didn’t scream ‘religious Jews must die’, ‘secular Jews must die’ or ‘Chassidic Jews must die’ … When making his attack, he was attacking all of us.”

On Wednesday night, a vigil at The Great Synagogue was co-hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Emanuel Synagogue and The Great Synagogue, and led by Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton of The Great and Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins of Emanuel Synagogue.

“The shooting was an extreme example of hate turned to physical violence,” said NSW JBOD president Lesli Berger. “The victims, the survivors and the Pittsburgh community deserve our thoughts and prayers.”

Rabbi Shalom White of Chabad of Western Australia similarly expressed his deep despair during the shule’s service earlier this week, drawing on the symbolism of lighting candles in the darkness of life.

“We light a candle to be able to bring back the light of that soul, to recognise that this person was a light in the world that was diminished,” said Rabbi White.

“The one thing which triggered [the gunman’s] murder spree, was the fact that this Jewish organisation was helping refugees … Because we do chesed, because we find it in our hearts to open our hearts, [that is why] a random shule was chosen.”

With this in mind, Rabbi White said that we need to “help more and light more candles in this world, because this is the only way in which we are going to be able to make a change”.

The Brisbane Synagogue is also holding a memorial service tonight.